#Omicron came from Europe 11 days before striking South Africa

South Africa reported the new variant B.1.1.529, Omicron, to the World Health Organization (WHO) on November 24.

New Delhi: Omicron, the COVID-19 variant of concern, was already spreading in Europe even before its first cases were identified in South African countries. Dutch authorities has now announced that they have detected Omicron cases dating back as long as 11 days.

Dutch research institute – National Institute for Public Health, RIVM – said, “We have found the Omicron coronavirus variant in two test samples that were taken on November 19 and November 23. It is not clear yet whether these people have visited Southern Africa.”

South Africa reported the new variant B.1.1.529 to the World Health Organization (WHO) on November 24.

The first Omicron cases in the Netherlands were reported after two KLM flights from South Africa arrived in Amsterdam on November 26.

The Dutch research institue said at least 14 people on flights from Johannesburg and Capetown arrived at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport on November 26 carrying the new variant. The people had been informed and municipal health services had now started contact investigations, it added.

RIVM said samples from previous tests would be re-examined. The institute also said that in the “coming period”, a number of studies will be conducted into the distribution of Omicron variant in the Netherlands.

Belgium and Germany have also said COVID-19 sample tests confirm Omicron cases in those countries were before South African health officials alerted the world of its existence. The infected passengers have been put on quarantine.

The Netherlands has so far reported as many as 16 cases of Omicron variant of COVID-19, highest in Europe.

RIVM infectious diseases chief Aura Timen told AFP that the moment a new variant emerged and was announced, probably it was already spread all over the world.

Belgium was the first European nation to report a case of coronavirus Omicron variant. The person with infection was detected on November 22 and developed symptoms 11 days after travelling to Egypt via Turkey.

Germany has confirmed that a person who tested positive for Omicron on November 21 arrived at the Frankfurt airport.

Omicron has now spread like a wildfire and more than 20 countries, including Australia, Britain, Canada, Latin America, Hong Kong, Japan, Israel, Italy and Portugal have reported cases of the new variant. There is a concern that the variant may possibly pass easily from person to person. A large number of countries have imposed travel restrictions on passengers from southern African nations.

first published:Dec. 1, 2021, 6:49 p.m.

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